A Healthy Stomach Helps With Overall Health
Many of us spend an inordinate amount of time trying to avoid bacteria (wiping down surfaces, using hand sanitizer, etc.), but certain types of bacteria are actually beneficial for overall health and well-being. Bacteria is especially relevant for gut health, and there is increasing evidence that having more good bacteria can benefit the immune system, prevent disease and boost metabolism.
Gut Bacteria Function
Gut bacteria play a role in regulating weight, immune function, mood and even the growth of certain types of cancers. Inside the digestive system, there are hundreds of different types of bacteria called microbiota that contain millions of different genes. The microbiome, or a person’s own microbiota composition, is unique to each individual and lives throughout the body, but the stomach microbiota have the most significant impact on overall health. The bacteria in the stomach also plays an important role in metabolizing medications and nutrients, aiding in the proper functioning of the digestive system and preventing the invasion of pathogens.
Diseases and Digestive Health
New research suggests that the gut bacteria pattern in sick people is different from that of people who are healthy. Studies suggest that people who suffer from different conditions and illnesses may have the wrong types of gut bacteria, too little good bacteria or too much bad gut bacteria. Scientists are still trying to make definitive connections between specific types of gut bacteria and certain diseases, but it is clear that imbalances in gut bacteria can cause or exacerbate the following conditions:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Liver disease
- Heart disease
- Diseases of the bowels such as Crohn’s disease
Aiding Gut Health
Genetics and age both play a role in each person’s microbiome and its health, but there are still certain dietary and lifestyle choices that can improve gut health. Here are some tips to increase the good gut bacteria and also improve the balance between the good and bad bacteria:
- Avoid smoking altogether and limit alcohol consumption.
- Exercise regularly.
- Consume at least 5 servings of vegetables and fruit daily. These complex carbohydrates help good bacteria stay healthy.
- Limit consumption of foods that are high in sugar and fat, such as processed foods. Sugar tends to foster the growth of bad gut bacteria.
- Stay well hydrated. Aim for six to eight 8-oz glasses of water daily.
- Replace animal proteins with plant-based proteins such as legumes and nuts.
- Talk to your doctor about adding a probiotic or prebiotic dietary supplement to your diet.